Police in Burns, Oregon, made the first arrest in connection with the armed militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
A 62-year-old Oregon man was arrested Friday in Burns, Oregon, in connection with stolen Malheur National Wildlife Refuge vehicles, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office reports.
Oregon State Police officers took Kenneth Medenbach, of Crescent, Oregon, into custody just after noon at the Safeway in Burns. Medenbach was arrested on probable cause for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a Class C felony in Oregon, and carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
Officers recovered two vehicles stolen from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had reported the vehicles stolen to the county sheriff’s office.
The agency said in a statement it was grateful for law enforcement’s help.
“We will continue to work with law enforcement to recover vehicles bought and paid for by the American people to care for their national wildlife refuge,” said USFWS spokesperson Megan Nagel.
Court records show, Medenbach has a long history of conflict with federal agencies.
In 2015, Medenbach participated in protests outside the Bureau of Land Management office in Medford, Oregon, after the BLM challenged the mining practices of two gold miners in the area.
That dispute also drew members of another Bundy-affiliated group, the Oath Keepers, who posted an armed guard at the mine.
In 1996, Medenbach was convicted of unlawful use of national forest lands, for squatting in the Gifford Pinchot National forest in Washington.
Medenbach was deemed a safety risk and was detained before his trial as a result of references he made to “Ruby Ridge” and “Waco, Texas” and his refusal to stay away from the squatting site, according to records from a Washington appellate court.
Prior to that conviction, Medenbach gained notoriety for squatting on 10 acres of BLM property next to his house near La Pine, Ore.
According to press reports at the time, Medenbach claimed the land as a homestead.
“He argued that the U.S. Constitution bars the government from owning land except for national defense and that that 10 acres was his fair share of the 30 million acres of federal land in Oregon,” the Associated Press wrote in a June 1995 article.
In Oct. 1995, federal agents reported in sworn affidavits that they observed him cutting trees in on the BLM land, attempting to rebuild a cabin.